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My 10 point guide on how to be a (successful) indie author – part #1

This blog post is the result of #UKROMCHAT inviting me onto their fab site. I thought the notes were too good to be hidden away in one of my box files. I hope you find the post interesting.  Do share/comment/ask questions, that’s what this post is all about.

 1.Please tell us about your latest book Take Me, I’m Yours

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India Buchanan plans to set up an English-Style bed and breakfast establishment in her great-aunt’s home, MacFarlane’s Landing, Wisconsin. But she’s reckoned without opposition from Logan MacFarlane whose family once owned her aunt’s house and now want it back. MacFarlane is in no mood to be denied. His grandfather’s living on borrowed time and Logan has vowed to ensure the old man sees out his days in their former home. India’s great-aunt has other ideas and has threatened to burn the house to the ground before a MacFarlane sets foot in it. There’s a story here. One the family elders aren’t prepared to share. When India finds herself in Logan’s debt, her feelings towards him change. However, the past casts a long shadow and events conspire to deny them the love and happiness they. Can India and Logan’s love overcome all odds? Or is history about to repeat itself? You can read an extract.

2.This is your first book set outside of the UK. What drew you to Wisconsin. 

Back in the day I trained a teaching student from Oshkosh University for two terms. We became great friends and I had a standing invitation to go over to stay with her in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. I did just that for five weeks one summer and when I flew back from Chicago I promised I would write a romance set in Wisconsin. Last year I learned she has Parkinson’s Disease and that galvanised me into action – this book is for her.

3.OK, we need to know about Sexy Scottish Lairds and Hunky Marine Biologists…

#3cWell, if you insist. I am a dyed-in-the-wool romantic. For some women, it’s Regency Rakes, Cowboys or Navy Seals, but for me it’s a man-in-a-kilt. If he’s a highland laird or the heir to a highland estate so much the better. Not because of wealth or  belonging to an aristocratic family but because I love a hero who isn’t afraid to shoulder responsibility, care for his tenants and who has a strong connection with the land. Those attributes, allied with a sharp mind, a sense of humour and a willingness to care for the heroine wins me over. As for marine biologists: who could resist Daniel Craig or Sean Connery emerging from the surf in a wetsuit – budgie smugglers, not so much! Urgh.

4 and 5.Please tell us about your writing journey prior to New Romantics Press being founded

I had bagged an agent (the late Dot Lumley) and HM&B were showing interest in my writing.  In 1990 I reached a crossroads, continue with my writing or accept a deputy headship of a large primary school. Because of the demanding nature of teaching, I knew I couldn’t do both and chose the latter. In 2006 I took early retirement from teaching joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme, wrote Tall, Dark and Kilted and submitted it for a critique. I was told it was ‘almost ready’ to start sending out to agents but needed more polishing. etc. In the meantime, I co-founded NRP with other members of the RNA/NWS. Then, over lunch in my garden, author Amanda Grange advised us to consider self-publishing on amazon. The algorithms were changing and . . . well, you can read more about it here –  That was in 2012 and we’ve never looked back. I only wish I’d had the chutzpah to self-publish a year earlier because terms were more favourable on Amazon at that point.

New Romantics Press is keen to find new readers and share our work with them. Over the last six years we have published fifteen books between us and are currently working on new titles. Our motto is: Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves and you can read more about us on in this blog

6.What are the benefits of collaborating with other authors?

Well, for one thing, you are never more than a phone call away from a good mate who will listen to your writing woes, meet you for coffee and offer sound advice. Between us, we have a wealth of knowledge about indie publishing, social media, PR – and what one of us doesn’t know, the others will find out! I couldn’t imagine being without my NRP support system.

Your events sound like fun . . . #5bMost readers and bloggers mention how much fun we have promoting our books. Writing can be a lonely occupation. As authors, we spend most of the time hidden away in our studies/offices tapping at the keyboard. When we do get out, we like to let our hair down. Warning: our events involve laughter and prosecco, so only like-minded writers and readers need apply.

In 2019, Adrienne Vaughan and I will be running a series of workshops for novice and intermediate writers, sharing our knowledge and giving them the confidence to finish their WIP. On a more personal note, before the end of 2018, I have a library talk, a lecture on indie publishing to deliver at De Montfort University, I’m hosting a workshop featuring Kim Nash of Bookouture – and organising a Christmas Party for the Belmont Belles (the Leicester Chapter of the RNA) with guest speaker Carole Matthews. Oh, and I have another novel to write – no pressure, obvs.img_3267

Here endeth the first part of my talk. Do join me next time when I will be covering the following aspects of writing:

  • the difference between self-publishing and indie publishing
  • advice for writers considering self-publishing/indie publishing
  • my thoughts about taking a hybrid approach
  • plotters vs pantsers
  • top tips for finishing a novel 
  • choosing and researching the location of my novels
  • why do I write happily ever after novels 

Laters,

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– BREAKING NEWS –  TMIY hits #1 spot

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A Heads Up and Some Good News

Hi everyone – I’m delighted to share my news with you.

GIRL IN THE CASTLE  has been long listed for the Exeter Novel Prize.

Click on the arrow to watch this promo.

I’ve got my fingers and everything else crossed that I make the short list.

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💕Perhaps you’d like to read Girl in the Castle or buy a paperback copy for someone for Valentine’s Day? 💕 Here’s the blurb to whet your appetite –

Her academic career in tatters, Dr Henriette Bruar needs somewhere to lay low, plan her comeback and restore her tarnished reputation. Fate takes her to a remote Scottish castle to auction the contents of an ancient library to pay the laird’s mounting debts. The family are in deep mourning over a tragedy which happened years before, resulting in a toxic relationship between the laird and his son, Keir MacKenzie. Cue a phantom piper, a lost Jacobite treasure, and a cast of characters who – with Henri’s help, encourage the MacKenzies to confront the past and move on. However – will the Girl in the Castle be able to return to university once her task is completed, and leave gorgeous, sexy Keir MacKenzie behind?If you want to read an extract from Girl in the Castle, you can do so here.

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I’m also offering a #GIVEAWAY of a paperback copy of Girl in the Castle on Goodreads (US only, sorry). You have until February 15th to enter.

Two years ago I was shortlisted for the Exeter Novel Prize with Scotch on the Rocks. If you would like to read about that occasion, here’s the link

Finally . . . yesterday, New Romantics Press travelled to London for the launch of  Adrienne Vaughan’s new novel – That Summer at the Seahorse Hotel. We had a fabulous time. If you’d like to see the photos and read the blog post, here it is . . . Have a great weekend and keep on writing, reading and reviewing.

Summer Magic – Romance in the Court

Romance in the Court, hosted by David Headley, managing director of Goldsborough Books and literary agent is a fabulous event and one of the highlights of my summer. On Thursday, I travelled down to London with fellow New Romantic Press author, Adrienne Vaughan to join writers, agents, bloggers and publishing representatives at Cecil Court WC2. 1-PhotoFunia-1495785178

Adrienne had to buy ‘emergency shoes’ from Dune in St Pancras en route (as one does) and I waited patiently, knowing resistance was futile. A taxi ride through London always sets us up for these events and we really felt the buzz on this warm, summer evening.  First stop was Cote Brasserie across the road from Cecil Court to refuel. As we sat sipping our wine, Sir Roy Strong walked past looking very dapper, which was apt considering it is Chelsea Flower Show week. Last time Ade and I had a similar outing we bumped into Dustin Hoffman. Well, I bumped into him, Ade was too busy looking at shoes in Tod’s window on Kensington High Street.  Shoes, again? Honestly!

David’s hospitality is legendary and his young staff so friendly and accommodating (thank you Emily et al)  that in no time we had picked up our author badges, a glass of ice cold prosecco and started mingling. As you can see from this photo, the court was soon buzzing as we met up with fellow RNA members and others from the publishing industry. I was able to hand out promotional postcards announcing the publication of my latest book: GIRL IN THE CASTLE, which I am very thrilled about.

The interior of Goldsborough Books is fascinating, with many signed first editions behind glass-fronted bookcases.There are also many contemporary novels on sale, and I spotted many favourite authors on the shelves. There is a sign on the stairs suggesting that it leads to Hogwarts, but I was having too much fun to follow it.

Sadly, we had to leave to catch a taxi back to St Pancras for the ten o’clock to Leicester. We are very much looking forward to the RNA Summer Conference when we will meet up with our writer friends once more. Here’s my blog post about last year’a Romance in the Court if you would like to read it.

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Footnote: many friends at the event wanted to know more about our caravan trip to Cornwall (where I did a fair impersonation of a drowned rat), and to hear more of the antics of our parrot, Jasper, who travels with us. Here he is, and here am I with writer Rosemary Smith,  who I met up with in St Mawes, presenting her with a signed paperback of Girl in the Castle.

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So – here’s to Romance in the Court 2018 when I hope the weather gods smile on us. Thank you for reading this blog post – if you feel like sharing with others, the buttons can be found below.

Girl in the Castle

IMG_3558[3]Finally – the work in progress is finished, and is available for kindle download, to purchase as a paperback and to read FREE on kindle unlimited. Thank you to all readers, writers and friends who’ve been on this journey with me. Tada, drum roll – I proudly present – Girl in the Castle 

Here’s the book trailer

If you’ve followed over from my newsletter – here’s the opening chapter. 

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‘Castle Tearmannaire’

There it was, again—a lament; the kind played from the parapet of a castle high above a loch, the piper hidden by swirling autumn mist and fading light. Unable to ignore it any longer, Henriette Bruar ended the podcast—Five Historic Hauntings for Hallowe’en—and, ears straining, glanced half-fearfully over her shoulder in case some madman had got on at the last station, hell bent on making it plain that here was no place for Sassenachs.

            No place for lone, female travellers either, come to that.

            However, the train was empty, as it had been for the past half an hour. For who, in their right mind, would take the last train out of Fort William on a wet autumn afternoon and travel up the line to MacKenzie’s Halt?

            Only her, of course. Henriette Bruar, lately studying history at Saint Guthlac University, Hexham, in the north of England, until—well, until she’d screwed things up so badly that she’d been forced to come high-tailing it up to this remote corner of Scotland until the heat died down.

            ‘Stop imagining things!’ she admonished herself, her voice unnaturally loud in the empty carriage. That had the desired effect of banishing the piper and restoring her grip on reality. Her iPhone, she reasoned, must have picked up a transmission from a nearby radio station—Highland FM, or similar. That, coupled with the spooky podcast, was enough to make her imagine things.

            Yes, that was it.

            However, just in case, she cast another look around the carriage. As she did so, the feeling of presentiment which had dogged her since setting foot on Scottish soil returned, accompanied this time by pins and needles and the shivery, shaky feeling which usually heralds a virus. Physical sensations which no amount of foot-stamping, arm swinging or cups of lukewarm coffee could banish.

            ‘You need to get your blood pumping, Bruar,’ she said in the no-nonsense tone of a games mistress. ‘You haven’t got time for flights of fancy. You’re here for one reason, and one reason only—to undertake a commission on behalf of the university. Keep reminding yourself of that, and how lucky you are to have been given a chance to restore your reputation. Right now, an overactive imagination is an extravagance you simply can’t afford.’

            Spectral pipers, indeed!

            After further foot stamping and curling and uncurling her toes, she sat down, unfolded her itinerary and read it through for the hundredth time. The train would stop at MacKenzie’s Halt, where she was to get off. The train terminated further up the line but few, if any passengers, went beyond MacKenzie’s Halt. Upon leaving the train, she should cross over the footbridge and make her way to the edge of the loch where she would be taken across to Castle Tèarmannair.

            taken across . . .

            Forgetting her earlier resolution to stop daydreaming, fancy took flight once more. She saw herself as a Jacobite heroine, plaid wrapped tightly around her to ward off the wind, a white cockade pinned to her hair, being taken across the loch by clansmen loyal to the exiled Stuarts. In her imagination, she saw a castle in the middle of the loch where her lover was waiting, piper by his side, to welcome her home.

            Then she shook her head and dismissed the image.

Time she remembered that she was no Highland heroine, she was Castle Tèarmannair’s newly appointed archivist—hired to catalogue the contents of the laird’s library, prior to auction. Most likely it would turn out to be the usual collection of old estate papers, books on the best technique for blasting game birds out of the skies, or catching the salmon with a fly of the laird’s own design. There would be no first editions, illuminated manuscripts, or lost family trees proclaiming the laird the Last King of Scotland for her to discover 

            ‘Castle Tèarmannair.’ She experimented with the unfamiliar Gaelic. ‘Meaning Guardian, or Protector,’ she read from her guide book. ‘A gift from the Lord of the Isles to MacKenzie of MacKenzie for fighting alongside him at the Battle of Largs in 1263.’ Releasing a pent up breath, she put the itinerary in her bag and, getting to her feet, walked the length of the carriage, holding on to the back of the empty seats for balance, and peered through the windows into the late afternoon gloom.

            A thick autumn mist had followed the train out of An Gearasdan—Fort William, obscuring the stunning view promised by the guide books and, in a cinematic moment, the train appeared to ‘float’ above the rails. Nothing was visible on either side—not even the lights from the small settlements flanking the loch. Henri wondered, a little self-pityingly, if the mist was a metaphor for the current state of her life, which was mired in gloom and despondency.

            She pulled herself up sharp. ‘Positive thinking, Bruar. Remember?’

            She was halfway back to her seat when a lilting Highland voice announced: ‘We are approaching MacKenzie’s Halt. Please remember to take your belongings with you when you alight from the train.’ With no more time for introspection, she swung her tote bag over her shoulder, and collected coat, rucksack and suitcase out of the luggage rack as the train came, briefly, to a halt by the short platform. 

I hope this extract has made you want to buy a copy of Girl in the Castle and read on –

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 If you’d like to read the latest reviews for Girl in the Castle, here’s the link

My Review of 2016 #2 July – December

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Castle Stalker, Argyll © Lizzie Lamb

July saw us taking a month long research trip to Scotland. We started at Edinburgh, visited Rosslyn Chapel and Britannia . We called in at Whitburn to visit my family and discovered that Uncle Archie is a great fan of caravaning, too – I guess the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. Here he is with Auntie Nellie; they are my dad’s last remaining siblings. When I was talking to them, I lapsed into an East Lothian patois I hadn’t spoken in many a year. Good to know I haven’t lost it, ye ken?

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In August we visited Bletchley Park and found a connection there to WHITBURN, Winkie the carrier pigeon  who saved the lives of a WWII Bomber crew. They even had Winkie’s ‘parachute on display.Here’s Dave sitting at Alan Turing’s desk . . . 

While we were at Edinburgh we visited Doune Castle where many scenes from OUTLANDER (Castle Leoch), and MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL were filmed.

I drew inspiration for the Samhain feast in GIRL IN THE CASTLE here.

We then camped at Culloden  and travelled as far north as Balnakeil, Cape Wrath, (research for romance #5). We popped into Balmoral but Herself wasn’t in, so I met up with fellow writer Rae Cowie at Banchory for a coffee and presented her with a copy of Scotch on the Rocks. (thanks for reviewing, Rae)

You can’t visit Inverness without going Nessie hunting, so we called in at Urquhart Castle, but Nessie was taking a coffee break. You can see why, inspired by the mist, romantic landscape and mysterious wakes on the loch, how the legend of the monster first arose.

We moved on to Ullapool and, although it rained (a lot!), at least we weren’t bothered by midges. It has long been an ambition of mine to visit the Craft Village at Balnakeil , and we did just that – calling in at the fabulous Cocoa Mountain Cafe for the BEST hot chocolate EVER. If you visit nearby Durness, you’ll see the John Lennon memorial garden; John, Yoko and the kids used to holiday there in the late sixties.

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The road from Ullapool to Durness was stunning as we passed through North-West Highlands Geo-Park on a twisting one track road with passing places. Castles, white sand beaches, mountains, mist and small lochs (lochans)  covered in water lilies. Can’t wait to return.bab13063-f055-4138-8324-23ee43bee1e72

During that month New Romantics Press  published a tapas selection of our novels for reading on Kindle. At the end of each extract a link takes the reader direct to Amazon to download the novel and ‘read on’. Take a Chance on Us. 

Once I returned home, it was straight to East Midlands Airport to pick up Isabella Tartaruga. Isabella and I met through Facebook and have become firm friends ever since. I named a character in Scotch on the Rocks after her. We took Isa to our local pub for a cider and I organised a tea party in her honour – with a little help from my friends.

Talking of friends . . . In August we travelled to Brighton and had a super lunch with writer  June Tate, and exchanged books. Later in the autumn, we met up with lovely Carole Matthews; I received her latest book later on in the year and am looking forward to reading and reviewing both. I learn so much talking to such brilliant writers – I hope some of the fairy dust rubbed off. 

To ring the changes, New Romantics Press attended the Historical Novel Society‘s annual conference. I like to include lots of history in my contemporary novels – if that makes sense. One sad footnote: the conference was the last time I spoke to agent Carole Blake, who died unexpectedly in October. A great loss to readers and writers alike.

October saw me giving a four hour talk How to Self Publish your novel, at Stamford Arts. Thanks to Rachel Henry of WriteStars for inviting me. Dave was my wing man and worked the pc while I blathered on.14642163_10154045011707843_1225004116375522132_n

 

The highlight of November has to be the author event which Adrienne Vaughan and I presented at Aspinall, St Pancras, London. We sold books, talked to customers about writing – and met Tom Parker Bowles (name dropper!) in Fortnum’s, across the way! We’re hoping to be invited back again this spring to give author readings and to talk about the art of writing – watch this space.

It was a great November for Adrienne as she launched Fur Coat and No Knickers, a collection of short stories and poems.

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December went by in a whirl, the highlight was meeting Book Blogger, Rosie Amber and her team of reviewers and writers at the Belmont Hotel with the Leicester Chapter.img_3271-collage1Thanks to Rosie, Scotch on the Rocks was read by her review team and short listed for the contemporary fiction award (silver). It was also one of Book Blogger Cathy Ryan‘s TOP READS OF 2016.

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And finally . . . deep breath. I finished my latest novel – GIRL IN THE CASTLE and it is currently with beta readers. I have booked my proofreader and formatter and, with good luck and a following wind, it should be ready for pre-order by the end of March.

Cover reveal and blurb, coming soon.

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My review of 2016 – January – June

January kicked off with a BANG. New Romantics Press put on their best bibs and tuckers and headed to Lunnon Tah-an for Jill Mansell’s Book launch. There we bumped into many fellow RNA members who’d wandered over from another book launch to join us. A great time was had by all and we went away inspired to finish our WIP in 2016.

Read on to see if we achieved our goal . . .

In February, our baby boy Jasper was 20 and he received lots of cards. One from a Facebook friend and reader Lotte Sutton in Australia, which was such a kind thought.  I just hope he appreciated it. He’s 21 on February 2nd 2017 – I predict that there might be a little celebration on that day involving the Bridget Jones DVD, cocktails, canapes, cake and coffee. All the things he likes (cough, cough).

Adrienne and I have both had parents who’ve died from cancer, so we decided to raise some money for HOPE AGAINST CANCER, in their memories. In February we organised a literary lunch at swish Kilworth House Hotel, gave a hilarious (if I say so myself) talk about writing romance – and raised over £500 for the charity.

I also gave a talk on self-publishing to the Birmingham Chapter of the RNA, and to students at De Montfort University during February. March was a busy month, too. Apart from it being my birthday, I made the final of the Exeter Novel Prize with Scotch on the Rocks so we took the caravan down to Exeter and fitted in a spring-break holiday after the ceremony. I took good care of my precious trophy, but a certain person thought the award belonged to him!

April was rather more family orientated as it was my father-in-law Geoffrey’s 90th birthday which we celebrated in style. A moment to cherish. A friend of long-standing, Maggie, who regularly buys several paperback copies of my novels and POSTS them to Australia (at great expense) joined us for the celebrations.  img_17582

I got stuck in with the WIP and vowed to finish it before Christmas.

May was a busy month with the fabulous Romance in the Court which Adrienne and I attended. Passing through St Pancras I bought something in Aspinall’s and, after talking to the manager, we were invited back to hold an author event there in November.More of which in part #2. I’m looking forward to attending the same event in May of 2017, thanks to Goldsboro Books and David Hedley.

Next, I gave a talk in Chippenham, to aspiring authors to prove to them that self publishing was within their grasp and took along novels which New Romantics Press have published to make my point. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.photofunia-1484222424

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What we didn’t plan on last year, was trading in our caravan for a slightly bigger one with a FIXED BED. But that’s what we did, two days before we set off on our month’s stay in Bonnie Scotland . . . No more setting up/dismantling the bed every morning so we can have breakfast. I’ve also gained more writing space, so #winwin. Just writing about it makes me long to go on the road again. 2016-06-26 12.47.27

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about the first half of 2106.

Do join me for #2 when I’ll mention:

  • a character from Scotch on the Rocks who came to stay
  • the historical novel society conference in Oxford
  • NRP book launch and another author presentation
  • our gig at Aspinall and meeting Tom Parker-Bowles
  • the RNA winter party
  • Chatsworth all decked out for Christmas
  • the last chapter meeting of the season and some surprise guests
  • a cover reveal for #4

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